Black and hispanic people ‘twice as likely to die’ in US from COVID-19

America is ridden with disparity and extremes.

Race has been at the heart of that story historically and it is raising its ugly head once again during this pandemic.

New data suggests that if you’re black or hispanic in the United States, you’re twice as likely to die from COVID-19.

“These are mostly communities that are impoverished, that have poor healthcare access,” said Uché Blackstock, founder of Advancing Health Equity.

“It was as if the pre-existing health disparities made them more vulnerable, and then also their jobs are exposing them to the public and to being sick.”

Hart Island in New York City is being used as a home for mass graves
Image:Hart Island in New York City is being used as a home for mass graves

In New York state, 17% of those who die from coronavirus are black, despite representing only 9% of the population.

And there are stark figures emerging elsewhere – states like Illinois for example.

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Outside Chicago, black Illinoisans are currently dying from COVID-19 at 3.4 times the rate of white residents.

Black residents account for 42% of coronavirus-related deaths statewide and nearly 30% of the 11,256 confirmed cases in Illinois so far, despite them only accounting for about 14% of the state population, according to census data.

Coronavirus: Alarm over number of deaths among black people in US

Coronavirus: Alarm over number of deaths among black people in US

Dr Anthony Leno, an emergency physician at St Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers, New York, says pre-existing medical conditions are contributing to black and hispanic people’s vulnerability to COVID-19.

“Anybody who has what we call co-morbid disease – diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, anything like that is more susceptible to this disease and it tends to be more lethal,” he said.

But black and latino communities are also more likely to be in environments that put them at risk.

On Line 7 in New York, the subway carriages are mostly full of black and latino workers who cannot afford the luxury of staying at home, many also living in cramped low-income communities.

In Yonkers, we went on patrol in a diverse borough with Captain AJ Briones, who said he had seen every age and every ethnicity struggling with COVID-19.

He is working seven-day weeks and thinks space and money are potentially having an impact.

Captain AJ Briones says every age and every ethnicity are struggling with COVID-19
Image:Captain AJ Briones says every age and every ethnicity is struggling with COVID-19

“You’re looking at poorer areas where you have a lot of people in a small environment versus, say, someone in a suburban neighbourhood where it’s your family in a home and that’s it,” he said.

There is no daily data on race, ethnicity and links to COVID-19, and physicians and campaigners have called on the federal government to release it.

That will be critical in understand what is happening, enabling resources to be allocated proportionately, ultimately saving lives.

But for now, once again in America, it seems people of colour are at the sharpest end of a crisis, in desperate need of more help and acknowledgement.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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